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My 90 year old mother is very demanding. I regularly get emotionally exhausted, from her criticisms. She could live many more years (A.L.) to complain, so I wonder if learning to detach would make me less vulnerable. Her phone messages are enough to ruin a whole weekend for me. Sometimes I'm fine for months, but her personality shifts, from docile to aggressive, at a moments notice, (& I never see it coming). Has anyone got tips on detaching, (being less "triggered" by mother's criticisms?) Thank you.

Tiger55,

To expand a bit on detachment: At first, it feels very awkward and unnatural, and you may feel like you're betraying your LO as you claw your way out of emotional enmeshment. Don't give up. Stay after it.

I was groomed from puberty to be Mom's emotional caretaker. It was my job to be her barf bucket, always available to catch the endless negativity to process through my own juvenile brain. How convenient for her. (sarc). This lasted for decades. Once I adopted "gray rock," I had to keep reminding myself that detachment was like rain gear to protect me from the weather. Would I step out in the storm without it? Of course not!

Mom now has mid-stage dementia on top of her personality disorder. I can get away with putting her off, because her short term memory keeps worsening; perhaps that's something you can't do, as you didn't mention dementia with your mom. With "gray rock," I listen passively, without expression. Kind of a like a very boring, nonengaged person who never volunteers much and responds half-heartedly: "Really?" "I'm sorry you feel that way." "That must be awful." "I'll look into it." Sometimes I make a flat joke out of it: "Sorry Mom. You get 15 minutes to complain. Your time is up." Which of course annoys her, but sometimes it shuts her up for 2 minutes. Besides, the humor is a pressure valve for me. I'm not going to get her approval, no matter what I say or do; no matter how heroic my efforts. I do what I know is fair and appropriate in a calm, loving manner. There's no fixing a broken brain.

After lots of practice, "gray rock" becomes automatic. I hope it works for you!

Cheers
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Tiger55 Nov 25, 2018
Thanks, I was doing ok with the 'grey rock' mode until last month. She was really fixated on something & I was having my own problems (with my contractor & I also had hurt my foot). On top of it all, it was her birthday, & the nursing home forgot all about it. I got her lots of new clothes, but she had a bad reaction to a pill they were giving her, & she pooped all over herself a few times. After 3 weeks I stopped answering my phone, but still got sick over it, & was on the couch for 2 days: including 'holiday'. I wish I was stronger, or younger maybe, cuz I feel bad that I'm ignoring her to save myself. But she will probably live to 100, & not even notice if I drop dead. Your a real help to me, especially you: "CantDance", cuz you get it, that I'm taking care of a mother who terrorized me as a kid. Thank you for reminding me to be the 'grey rock', & helping me detach my mind from the guilt. God bless everyone here for your kindness to me.✌☺🙋🌸💞
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First of all, I'm sorry you're going through this. It's entirely understandable how your mom's whining triggers your pain. Your mother won't change, but you can. Don't allow her to manipulate you with F.O.G. (fear, obligation, and guilt). She's convinced you you're responsible for her happiness, when in fact mature, resourceful people take responsibility for their own happiness and don't expect others to do so. With 90 years' experience, your mom has undoubtedly honed the FOG to perfection. Detaching is an excellent idea. Adopt a neutral, nonreactive attitude (google "gray rock") and minimize contact. Screen or block her calls.

Her needs are being met by A.L. You will never satisfy her wants. Confine your efforts to necessities like doctor appointments (or enlist someone else to take her to those and report back to you concerning doctor's remarks, meds, etc. Beyond that, do what you really want to do and nothing more. With the exception of the doctor appts, which I still do, these strategies have worked reasonably well for me, protecting my health and sanity. Your mother is approximately the same age as mine; 90's and still going strong. Brace yourself for a long ride. Come back and tell us how it's going! Wishing you the very best!
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Tiger55 Nov 24, 2018
So true! (The F.O.G.) I appreciate that you know where I'm coming from☺, cuz its hard to not panic when I'm triggered. Thank God my hair grew back, cuz in 2013 I had big patches missing, from the stress. Thank you so much, I will work hard to detach better. ✌🌸💞🙋🌷
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Good luck on your interview, Tiger55!
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Tiger55 Nov 24, 2018
Thank you☺, I'm going to keep putting in applications around town though, cuz that job I interviewed for was like working in a dungeon! I'm going to try some daycares next, cuz kids make me smile.😀🙋✌
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What do you need to do for Mom? She is in a safe place, fed, clean and cared for. I did wash my Moms clothes. If you are doing that, then let the facility do it. I also bought Moms Depends and toiletries.

I have caller ID so I know who is calling. Don't answer let it go to voicemail. When you listen, try to ignore the complaints and just pick out the things you need to know. I have my cellphone set up that only my contacts ring thru. All others go to my voicemail. I don't know I even got a call till I look at the screen. When Mom starts to get negative, tell her you got to go. You don't have to listen to it and you shouldn't have to.
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Tiger55 Nov 23, 2018
Yes, I agree. (I already screen calls, but I still get way too upset). I'm glad I'll have a job again soon, be back on track. (Have interview Tuesday☺)
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When my mom, with dementia, entered the nursing home, she became angry and would snipe at me. She was unhappy and royally pi***d. Understandable. But after a while, I detached. When I was there, she obsessed about all these ancient people having sex with each other. She let family skeletons fall out of the closet. I couldn’t take it anymore—trying to figure out if what she was spouting had any basis in reality. So, I detached. I visited twice a week rather than every other day. It was ok. She was safe and cared for. And I stayed sane.
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Tiger55 Nov 23, 2018
So true, (sometimes converstions are confusing with my mother also!) I guess it frustrates her when I don't know how to reply, cuz I'm not sure what she's talking about! (But, of course I don't want to tell her that she sounds confused). Wish my sister was still alive. Thanks for your help.
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I was never a caregiver for my dreadful father, but a letter from him could ruin a weekend for me too. I eventually got someone else to read his letters, tell me anything I needed to know, and then destroy the letter. Could you do the same with the phone messages? Or perhaps just delete all messages from your mother, and phone her every so often to see if she actually needs you. She is phoning when she feels particularly spiteful, so your own contact might go better. If it happens during a visit, just leave.
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Tiger55 Nov 23, 2018
You understand perfectly, I can tell☺. It's like her voice from my dark past is 'triggering' me, & I almost panic. I did have my co-workers listen 2 her mesages for me last year, but I'm not back 2work yet. Years ago, a counselor told me I had complex ptsd from childhood abuse. There's a great Dr named Pete Walker whose online articles keep me from going off the 'deep end'.☺
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Yes I try but it doesn't always work. But working toward that would be a good goal. If you could start slowly that should help. I don't have the same issues with my mother but I do have issues. I think it may be easier for you since she is so negative. I have heard the expression that no one can make you feel worthless if you don't allow them too. Caregiving is hard enough for many even in the best of circumstances. Throw in a lack of gratitude along with criticism just makes it worse. I hope you can find ways to detach when she exhibits negative behaviors. Who wants to be emotionally tethered to that?
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Reply to Riverdale
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Tiger55 Nov 23, 2018
Thanks, I will read more about it online.
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